28.4.2009

IIT Campus Center at Illinois Institute of Technology

How to inhabit a given territory with only half the population that animated it in the 70's? To us the conundrum implies a building that is able to (re)urbanize the largest possible area with the least amount of (built) substance.


IIT’s situation is further exacerbated by the no-man’s-land to either side of the Elevated that keeps the developed halves apart in a diagram of disengagement. Building an urban facade on State Street-as the Mies master plan suggests-would even further condemn the residential quarters east of the Elevated to the status of hinterland.
The physical heart of the campus-a large rectangle between State and Wabash, 32nd and 33rd streets-is our project. By not stacking activities, but by positioning each programmatic particle as part of a dense mosaic, our building contains the urban condition itself.
To capture the sum of the student flows, the web of lines that already connect the eastern and western campus destinations are organized through the Campus Center to differentiate the multiplicity of activities into streets, plazas and urban islands. Without fragmenting the overall building, each of the constituent parts is articulated according to its specific needs and positioned to respond precisely to contextual influence to create neighborhoods (twenty-four hour, commercial, entertainment, academic, utilitarian), parks and other urban elements in miniature. The autonomy of each program is respected (even exacerbated): the shortcuts guarantee their co-existence.
The main federating element is the roof, a continuous concrete slab that shields the Campus Center against the noise of the Elevated while unifying the heterogeneity below.
The existing Commons Hall now functions as food court: its perimeter and the (original) wooden partitions preserved.
The commercial parts of the program are organized along the 33rd Street edge of the building, providing convenient access for the neighborhood «twenty-four seven».
The Elevated has a huge impact on IIT’s character, solved or unsolved. To proclaim a new beginning, we enclose the section that runs above the Campus Center in an acoustically isolating stainless steel tube, thereby releasing the potential of the no-man’s-land around the Elevated. The encircled track-«The Tube»-also becomes a crucial part of the Center’s, and IIT’s, image.

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